Travel Abroad: Is Your Information Safe During CBP Screenings?

Globally, we have seen an uptick in tightened security at airports and borders. For some, it may almost feel like a post-9/11 environment. Emphasis has been placed on the enforcement of many existing policies within our own borders. One policy that is being enforced more broadly at this time is “Border Searches of Electronic Devices” implemented in August of 2009. This policy was put in place by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and gives Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the authority to search electronic devices of any travelers seeking to enter the United States.

This raises important questions for many lawyers and privacy advocates. You may ask yourself, “How can I keep private client information safe while complying with the law during such a search?” Here are four suggestions that may help:

1. Consider Designating a Travel Device:

Many of us save loads of data on our laptops, even data that we do not need. To facilitate easier travel, consider using a separate laptop with just the applications and software you will need to successfully do your work on the go. If there is data you need to access, such as confidential client information, consider storing it using remote cloud computing software that simply requires a log in through your web portal or consider purchasing a secure virtual private portal.

2. Switch Up Your Accounts:

If the idea of purchasing a separate computer for travel isn’t feasible, try creating a second non-administrative account that has only the very basic applications you’ll need for your work. Before traveling, request that a colleague in your firm change the password for the encrypted account on the same computer with all of the sensitive client data and information. You will not know the password to that account and it will only be provided to you once you have cleared the CBP checkpoint. This is also an excellent option if you share your work computer with someone else.

3. Select Very Complicated Passwords:

We often choose passwords that are easy for us to remember, but that also makes it easy for others to guess them. Consider choosing passwords that are not complete words, but rather a combination of symbols and letters, including both upper and lower case letters. Never email passwords to yourself, and wherever you decide to store your passwords, make sure they are not easily traceable to your various accounts.

4. Files to Delete:

If you choose to travel with your regular laptop, the following are types of files you should consider deleting and storing elsewhere:

• Browser Data – You may not want CBP to know you were searching for ways to make your computer “forensically clean.” Be smart and clear your browser and cache of all passwords etc.

• Documents – .doc, .xls, .ppt, .pdf

• Emails – Comb through your emails and delete emails containing any information you would prefer to keep private, such conversations with clients or details of individual cases.

• Temporary Files and Folders

• Photos – Remove any photos you do not wish others to see.

We all know how important it is to comply with the directives of CBP officers. They have a well-established legal foundation for enforcing this policy and resistance will only create a much longer hassle. Putting some of the preventive measures in place will help make your next international trip easy and stress-free, while ensuring the protection of confidential client information.

If you should have any questions or need more information about the way that the U.S. immigration and nationality laws may impact you, your family, your friends or your colleagues, please feel free to contact the U.S. immigration and nationality lawyers and U.S. immigration attorneys at the NPZ Law Group